Previous posts in this discussion:
PostMichigan AG Scandalized by "Tailgate-Gate" (David Duggan, USA, 11/16/21 3:58 am)
Obviously Michigan's AG didn't go to Dartmouth:
Michigan's attorney general has publicly apologized to the entire state for getting drunk at the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry game two weeks ago.
Dana Nessel, a Democrat, posted on Facebook that she overserved herself at a pregame tailgate by drinking two Bloody Marys on an empty stomach. Nessel acknowledged that she had to be helped out of Spartan Stadium "so as to prevent me from vomiting on any of my constituents." The AG revealed that her staff wanted to hire a crisis firm to deal with the fallout from "Tailgate-Gate," but Nessel decided it was better to just own up to the fact that she drank too much.
JE comments: For non-US WAISers, a "tailgate" refers to the eating and imbibing event that takes place in a stadium parking lot prior to a big game. And around here, there's no game bigger than the Michigan-Michigan State football showdown. (MSU won this year's contest, 37-33.)
Nessel's honesty in her "mea culpa" is refreshing (full text above). I do suspect she had a few more Bloody Marys than she owned up to, however. Typically, a politician would give the "exhausted and disoriented" explanation. Time will tell if she keeps her job.
The Big Game? It's Not Michigan-Michigan State
(David Duggan, USA
11/17/21 2:47 AM)
John E mentioned the Michigan-Michigan State game as the "big one."
Is Ohio State-Michigan not bigger? If UMich-MSU is bigger, then it is only because the OSU-UM rivalry for the last 8 years has been so one-sided, as Michigan hasn't won The Game since 2011 (Covid prevented their playing last year). This is roughly coterminous with Jim Harbaugh's arrival to take over the Wolverines in 2015, and former Buckeye graduate assistant under Earle Bruce, Urban Meyer, owned him, running up scores of 42-13, 30-27 (OT), 31-20 and 62-39 in the late November classic.
Actually, the rivalry has been stoked as much by different coaches and their styles: Woody Hayes v. his former Miami University (the "Cradle of Coaches") assistant Bo Schembechler (1969-78), Jim Tressel v. Lloyd Carr (2001-07), Meyer v. Harbaugh (2015-18), as by the players. Ohio State boasts seven Heisman Trophy Winners (1st in the football hit parade), including Archie "Double Heisman" Griffin and Eddie George, while Michigan has but three (5th), including 1940 winner Tom Harmon, father of NCSI star Mark, and Charles Woodson. The Bloos [Michigan] have the lead in the number of national championships, however, 11 to 8, and has an overall winning record against the Scarlet and Gray 58-51-6. Hayes, fired after the 1978 Gator Bowl where he punched a taunting Clemson player in the throat, famously said that he would rather his players push the team bus over the Ohio Michigan line than buy gas in Michigan.
For those who are interested, Wikipedia has a pretty good and evenly balanced account of the rivalry. They don't mention the Michigan bumper-sticker directions to Columbus: go south until you smell it, go east until you step in it:
JE comments: Correct. There are games, but only one [The] Game. Yet it's a matter of perspective: for Michigan State, The Game is against Michigan. It's analogous to David Duggan's and my Alma Mater, Dartmouth, which considers the "Game" to be the Harvard showdown. Those weaklings in Cambridge look to Yale for their Game, however.
WAISer Michigan alums (Pat and Eddie Mears, Cameron Sawyer, Francisco Wong-Díaz, and Yours Truly come to mind) outnumber our Buckeyes (Brian Blodgett, the late Les Robinson, and others I've probably overlooked), so we can get away with disparaging jabs at OSU (even if "they" usually beat "us"). So how about this innocent factoid? The Game on even-numbered years takes place in Columbus, and on odd years in Ann Arbor. I always knew there was something odd about Ann Arbor...
The Big Game 2021: Michigan Beats Ohio State
(Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA
11/28/21 3:16 AM)
Just finished watching a great Big Game, wherein Michigan finally defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes after decades of failure and won the Big Ten East for the first time.
Coach Harbaugh had hired new assistant coaches with the single express purpose of achieving the goal of beating OSU. So he probably gets to keep his job.
The 13 sacks by Michigan's Hutchinson were critical and record-setting. The forthcoming postgame and weekend celebrations make me wish I were much younger and in Ann Arbor! Go Blue!
JE comments: Last night's snow may have put a damper on the celebration, but probably not. This Big Game is a Big Deal for our state, which is in need of a booster (a morale booster). Not only do we lead the nation in Covid cases, we also have the most "perfect" professional football team in the land: our winless Detroit Lions.
Francisco, we were driving back to MI from Delaware all day yesterday, so I missed the game. I'm grateful we traversed Ohio with no backlash.
The Game, 2021: Michigan Bests Ohio State (from Edward Mears)
(John Eipper, USA
11/28/21 11:58 AM)
Edward Mears writes:
Yesterday November 27th, No. 5 Michigan hosted No. 2 Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the 117th iteration of the biggest rivalry in all of American sports--so big that the annual college football contest is known simply as "The Game."
Historically, The Game had been a de facto championship game for the Big Ten: the winner was rewarded with conference bragging rights and (until recent years) a guaranteed trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The rivalry has seen classic games (1969, 1975, 1997, 2006, 2016), Heisman-clinching individual performances (Desmond Howard ‘91, Troy Smith '06, Charles Woodson ‘97) and combustible coaching enmities (the Ten-Year War between Woody and Bo and the Game of the Century between Carr and Tressel). The teams first met in 1897 and Michigan leads the all-time series 59-51-6. Both programs' identities are built around this rivalry, and while there may be other pesky challengers in the conference, fans and players of both teams only really care about one game: The Game, held on the last Saturday in November. The teams spend an outsized portion of their limited practice time preparing for each other over the course of each season and have instilled a mantra of Buckeye / Wolverine hatred with incessant trash talk, countdown clocks and other stratagems to help players internalize the importance of The Game.
It is fair to say the rivalry has not been much of one recently, with Ohio State holding a 17-3 edge since 2000 and as winners of the last eight contests going back to 2011. Jim Tressel's innovative spread offenses boat raced Michigan's confused, conventional defenses in the early 2000s, and Michigan then floundered in mediocrity after Lloyd Carr retired in 2007. Two questionable coaching hires in defensively challenged Rich Rodriguez and the perpetually overwhelmed Brady Hoke set the Wolverines backwards, and they could only watch as hated rivals Ohio State and Michigan State dominated the Big Ten in the second decade of the young century. Michigan only won The Game once in the post-Carr years from 2008-2014, a close victory over a mediocre, depleted Ohio State team still reeling from the Tressel scandal and led by interim coach Luke Fickell, now head coach at Cincinnati.
While Michigan could not escape the coaching curse hex after Carr's retirement, Ohio State was blessed: following Jim Tressel's resignation in light of a pay-for-play scandal involving some of his top players after the 2010 season, Urban Meyer--the most sought-after coaching talent in the country after an incredible run at Florida which included two national championships--landed in Columbus. Meyer went on an unprecedented tear of seven straight victories over Michigan, as well as numerous Big Ten Championships and a National Championship, before also resigning in disgrace in 2018 following domestic dispute allegations against an assistant coach that had been covered up. For most college football programs, departures of outsized coaches like Tressel or Meyer often result in long vision quests into the wilderness (Texas after Mack Brown, Michigan after Carr) or complete ruin (USC after Pete Carroll, Tennessee after Phillip Fulmer), but the Buckeyes "bucked" this trend a second time, as offensive guru Ryan Day--one of the hottest assistant coaches in the country at the time--was waiting in the wings to take over Meyer's well-oiled machine. Day took Meyer's juggernaut and elevated it to one of the most dominant programs in college football. The Buckeyes under Day pulverized nearly everyone who got in their way since 2019, posting an incredible 33-3 record, winning the Big Ten twice, making the National Championship game just last year and going undefeated in Big Ten play (23-0) entering The Game this year.
After Brady Hoke flamed out in a disappointing 2014 season that ended with another shellacking by Meyer's Buckeyes, Michigan fortunes appeared to change as they finally hit coaching gold when prodigal son, alumni and champion NFL coach Jim Harbaugh agreed to return to Ann Arbor and restore the Wolverines' lost glory. Coming into his first season in 2015, Harbaugh had a sterling reputation built on his revitalizations of the long-dormant Stanford and San Francisco 49ers football programs and an appearance in the Super Bowl (2013). On paper the marriage was a perfect match and Michigan fans (myself included) were certain that order would be restored: the Harbaugh era would herald Big Ten Championships for Michigan and a new version of the Ten-Year War between two of the sport's hottest coaches in Harbaugh and Meyer.
While Harbaugh did bring Michigan back to respectability in the Big Ten, losses against Ohio State and records against other rivals were a persistent albatross. Harbaugh had gone winless in his first five matchups against Ohio State and holds a losing record to cross-state rival Michigan State. Until this season he was also winless as an underdog (0-12) and had only notched a few paltry wins against top ten teams (2-13). Narratives make or break college football coaches, and after the warm glow of the honeymoon period faded with a second blowout loss to Ohio State in 2019, Michigan fans writhed in despair as the narrative congealed around Harbaugh's inability to win the big games and impotence in high-leverage moments. Each season the Wolverines found new heartbreaking ways to lose to Ohio State (one yard short of a game-ending 4th down defensive stop in 2016, which was the first version of the The Game to go to overtime, and some maddening late-game quarterback miscues in a winnable game in 2017), or embarrassed themselves in ways that made them a national laughingstock (a massive double-digit beat down as a favorite in 2018 and a repeat of the offensive thrashing in 2019). The wheels came off entirely during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, as Michigan only mustered two wins against lowly opponents (an early victory over an anemic Minnesota and an overtime thriller against perennial conference whipping-post Rutgers) while suffering embarrassing losses to Michigan State (as a 21.5 favorite), Wisconsin, Indiana and Penn State. Mercifully, COVID-19 infections in Schembechler hall put an early stop to Michigan's disastrous season and the game against Ohio State (which was certain to be a bloodbath) was cancelled. Conspiratorial Buckeyes accused Michigan of ducking The Game, and Ryan Day was quoted as telling his team that they will "hang 100 [points]" on Michigan next time they play, putting even more pressure on Harbaugh's embattled Wolverines for the 2021 season.
After an early-season hiccup against Oregon to start the 2021 campaign, Ohio State paved the rest of their opponents, culminating with an emphatic 56-7 demolishing of a top-ten Michigan State outfit. The death star was fully operational and national commentators were calling Ohio State's passing attack, led by three NFL first-round receivers Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the best the sport had ever seen. Back in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh had rebooted nearly his entire staff following the disastrous 2020 season, hiring young up-and-coming coaches from the NFL and around college football in order to give the program a much-needed jolt of intensity and instill a renewed focus on beating Ohio State. Critical to the revamp was the hiring of former Baltimore Ravens defensive coach Mike MacDonald, who was tasked with installing an NFL-style defense whose hallmark was disguised coverages and blitzes designed specifically to thwart Ohio State's vaunted Patrick Mahomes-style aerial attack. Most Michigan faithful (myself included) had written off the season as a rebuild characterized by growing pains as the new defensive system was implemented, but the team defied expectations and gained momentum with some massive early-season victories over Washington and Wisconsin and a steely, late-game come-from-behind victory over Nebraska in a hostile Memorial Stadium. The only blemish came in a thriller against Michigan State, which the Wolverines lost by four points amid controversy over some very questionable calls by the officials that favored the Spartans at every turn.
Many in Ann Arbor were expecting the Wolverines to implode following the self-immolation against the Spartans as endemic miscues of seasons past reared their ugly head during that game: offensive turnovers at critical junctures, defensive lapses on 3rd and 4th downs and a general unwillingness to go for the jugular by settling for field goals when Michigan had the Spartans up against the wall. Yet the team rebounded with pavings of Indiana and Maryland, bookending a hard-fought late-game victory in Happy Valley over Penn State. The Wolverines established their identity as a run-first offense behind the "thunder and lightning" rushing attack of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, while Cade McNamara emerged as a serviceable game manager at quarterback. The highlight for the Wolverines, however, was on the defensive side of the ball where defensive ends Aiden Hutchinson and David Ojabo established themselves as the best pass-rushing duo in the country, amassing more than 20 sacks between them. Michigan State imploded on their own with brutal losses to Purdue and Ohio State by exposing glaring holes in their secondary and effectively knocking them out of the Big Ten Championship hunt. With the Spartans out, The Game took on renewed importance, as it would determine the winner of the Big Ten East division for the first time since 2016, with the winner heading to Indianapolis for a shot at a Big Ten Championship. Michigan had never been to the Big Ten Championship Game (established 2011) nor the College Football Playoff (established 2014), while Ohio State has been to Indianapolis six times since 2011 (with five Big Ten Championship game victories) and four College Football Playoff appearances (with one National Championship).
The stage was set for another all-time classic in The Game, heightened by the do-or-die playoff implications and the narrative surrounding Jim Harbaugh's tenure at Michigan and his record against Ohio State. At Big Ten media days in the spring, Harbaugh wasted no time avoiding the Buckeye monkey on his back, proclaiming that Michigan will beat Ohio State or "die trying." On paper, it looked like Michigan would be able to keep the game competitive, but Ohio State's offensive firepower would ultimately be too explosive and too overpowering for Michigan's new staff and young players to handle. Michigan would need to score in bunches to keep up with the Buckeyes' high-octane offense, and they had not shown an ability to do that in prior contests against weaker opponents. Vegas set the line at just over a touchdown in favor of Ohio State, and money flooded in favor of the Buckeyes as this seemed low. But crazy things happen in November and especially at The Game. During game week, the Wolverines exuded a confidence in interviews that hadn't been seen in Schembechler hall in decades. The Game was being played at home in front of a friendly crowd, which should give the Wolverines an edge. There was a sense that Michigan had a chance in this game if they played perfect, mistake-free football and slowed down the Ohio State offense. As the pregame festivities kicked off and the teams came out of the tunnel, soft flurries of snow gently fell over Michigan Stadium, a welcome development that certainly favored the run-heavy Wolverines.
Cloaked in this sublime winter spectacle, Michigan received the opening kickoff and marched down the field on a beautifully scripted drive that bullied the Buckeye defensive line and exploited their weakness at linebacker. After some punishing runs, the drive culminated with an end-around run off a statue-of-liberty play by A.J. Henning for six points. On the ensuing Ohio State drive, the Michigan defense, with some help from the raucous maize-and-blue crowd, forced some early Buckeye mistakes that led to a quick three-and-out and some excellent field position for the Wolverines. Michigan quickly moved the chains and was poised for another score to go up fourteen points deep in Ohio State territory before disaster struck, as Cade McNamara threw into triple coverage and the Buckeyes intercepted his pass near the goal line. This was the type of soul-crushing mistake and crisis of confidence that Michigan fans had become all too accustomed to over the past two decades. With a chance to bury the Buckeyes early, the Wolverines instead shot themselves in the foot in devastating fashion. The Buckeyes responded by driving the length of the field, backing the Wolverines defense up against the goal line. But this was where the first sign that the Wolverines may go off script and find the muster to shake off the ghouls of the past as Mike MacDonald's defense stoned the Ohio State offense on three plays, forcing a field goal and preserving the Michigan lead.
After trading touchdowns and a second Buckeye field goal, Michigan went into the half leading 14-13. Michigan and Harbaugh had been here before, leading against Buckeye teams at halftime in recent years before collapsing in the second half. The start to the second half (Ohio State would receive the ball) would be the defining moment of the game--can the Wolverines do what they haven't been able to in many years against the Buckeyes, assert themselves in the second half--or was the moment too big for them to grasp? Years of frustration in this game and path dependency had primed me not to believe in this team pulling out a close win over a hated rival, but whatever was said by Harbaugh to his team during halftime unearthed an elusive confidence that had been repressed and beaten down in the collective Wolverine consciousness after decades of Buckeye lashings. Inspired, the Wolverines came out of halftime and imposed their will in the trenches--the defense forced a three and out on Ohio State's first drive and on the subsequent drive Michigan delivered a punch to Ohio State's mouth on an explosive touchdown from Hassan Haskins behind some brilliant offensive line play. Ohio State never really recovered, and when their receivers did show flashes on some circus-catches that set up touchdowns, Michigan responded each time, scoring touchdowns of their own on each of their four substantive possessions of the second half.
Down by fifteen points late in the fourth quarter and forced to chew up lots of clock on offense, Ohio State looked nothing like the world beaters they were the week before against Michigan State. Michigan's disguised coverages had Buckeye quarterback C.J. Stroud guessing in the pocket, giving time for Aiden Hutchinson and the pass rush to get home. On a critical third down with about a minute left on the Ohio State 46-yard line, Stroud once again couldn't find an open receiver and Michigan defensive end David Ojabo broke free of the Buckeye line, sacking Stroud for a 13-yard loss at the Ohio State 33-yard line. Ojabo stood over Stroud's crumpled body and flexed for an eternity, the pent-up frustration of millions of Michigan fans exiting his lungs with a primal scream that buckled my knees and sent my skull tingling. Dropping to the floor in my Tokyo apartment just before 5 am, I punched the air and then wept as the catharsis of the moment overwhelmed my senses.
Several plays later, Cade McNamara was in victory formation kneeling the clock out. The Big House turned into a soup of maize and blue as fans rushed the field, player and student feet packing the snow into the turf and rejoicing in a blown lid of ecstasy as the iconic thumps of Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes pulsed through the stadium's PA. Fox's cameras tracked Harbaugh from above, who was content to wander among the throngs of fans, giving out high fives and enjoying the moment with the other 100,000+ in attendance. Many oblivious field-rushers streaked by the coach, pulled by the critical mass of victory forming at midfield and blissfully unaware that the Michigan Man who had just sunk two proton torpedoes into the Ohio State death star's exhaust ports was walking in their midst, soaking in atmosphere just like they were. As the celebrations wound down, Harbaugh shared an embrace with fellow Michigan coach, former athlete and football fan Juwan Howard before turning towards the tunnel. His back to the camera, Jim Harbaugh's silhouette faded into the tunnel black as the steady patter of snow frosted the stadium in a white sheen of hope. Later, in the bowels of the stadium after the fans had gone, Harbaugh was asked what the win felt like. He replied, "it feels like the beginning".
Game Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyoHWxntHTg
JE comments: Eddie, this recap is perfection. Not having watched or listened to the game, it feels as though I was there. Even better. And your prose, wowee: "exiting his lungs with a primal scream that buckled my knees and sent my skull tingling." That, Beloved WAISers, is poetry.
Despite accusations of bias from all sides, WAIS is a wide tent of many contrasting views. Still--still--we seem to be guilty of favoring Wolverines over the Buckeyes. Too many U Mich alumni among our ranks, and not enough Ohio Staters. Anyone care to rebut Eddie's panegyric with the view from Mudville...oops, Columbus?
Photos below. Note how the Tokyo sky is blue...and maize?
Lamentations from a Buckeye Household
(Enrique Torner, USA
11/29/21 2:26 AM)
I have to admit I'm not a football fan, but Edward Mears's report on the Michigan-Ohio State Game was a great and fun read!
My wife, however, would have nothing to celebrate, because she, as well as her family and our two daughters, have been strong Buckeye fans forever! My wife's family is from Ohio, and they don't even dare to spell out the state of M: that's how they call the state! So, cut it out!
JE comments from M: I understand, Enrique. We live very close to the Ohio border, and we see divided loyalties. We even have a few neighbors brave enough to fly the silver-and-red Buckeye flag. Or at least they were brave enough until last Saturday. (Show more respect, John: the correct OSU colors are "scarlet and grey.")
- Lamentations from a Buckeye Household (Enrique Torner, USA 11/29/21 2:26 AM)
- The Game, 2021: Michigan Bests Ohio State (from Edward Mears) (John Eipper, USA 11/28/21 11:58 AM)
- The Big Game 2021: Michigan Beats Ohio State (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 11/28/21 3:16 AM)